No Nats file on free agency's first day

No Nats file on free agency's first day

WASHINGTON -- Fifty-nine players filed for free agency on Saturday, but none came from the Nationals organization. Right-handers Tony Armas Jr. and Ramon Ortiz, catcher/first baseman Robert Fick and outfielders Jose Guillen and Alfonso Soriano have until Nov. 11 to file for free agency.

The Nationals have made it clear that they want Soriano back as their left fielder, but they are willing to take two draft picks -- a first rounder and sandwich pick in 2007 -- if Soriano decides to sign with another team.

"We love Alfonso and we are certainly going to continue to explore having him back, but we have always known that if we didn't have him back, we would have two very, very important picks," team president Stan Kasten early this week. "We need to build up our [farm] system. Either way, we feel very comfortable."

Soriano said on Saturday night he has not heard from his agent, Diego Bentz, about his free agency status.

"I did not talk to my agent yet. I'm not thinking about baseball. I'm enjoying my vacation right now," Soriano said. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't want to think about it. If I think about it, I'm going to lose my [vacation] time."

Armas and Ortiz were part of Washington's rotation in 2006 and both were inconsistent. They had ERAs over 5.00 and went a combined 20-28. The chances of Armas and Ortiz coming back are slim as the Nationals may turn to younger players in the rotation.

Fick said he hopes to come back to the Nationals, but the front office told him the top priority is to look for a manager. Injuries limited Fick to 60 games in 2006. He hit .266 with two home runs and nine RBIs, and Washington was 11-7 when he started behind the plate.

What could keep Fick from coming back is the fact that he is a left-handed hitting catcher and they already have one in Brian Schneider, who is the team's starter. The Nationals have a right-handed hitting catcher in Brandon Harper, who was a pleasant surprise, and is the odds-on favorite to be Schneider's backup.

"I want to come back, but if I don't, I have to go somewhere else. I enjoyed working for [general manager] Jim [Bowden]," Fick said.

Guillen, who hasn't heard from the Nationals since the season ended, missed most of the second half because of right elbow reconstruction, but he has taken batting practice for about a week and said the elbow is getting stronger. Guillen feels when healthy he can be a major contributor to a team.

Guillen has been with Washington for two seasons. In 2005, he hit .283 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs, but was plagued by left shoulder problems. Before missing the second half of 2006, Guillen hit .216 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.